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Loki, Asgard's prankster-in-chief, arrives on Disney+ tomorrow (Wednesday, June 9) for his standalone TV series set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and the reviews are finally in. So is it worth taking the trip through time?
The big question is this: can Tom Hiddleston's fan favorite villain-turned-hero-turned-villain-again carry an entire six-episode TV show on his handsome shoulders? Well, the first reviews for the new show are now coming online and they hold the answer to that very important query. However, we should note that critics were only given access to the first two episodes of the third MCU TV project, which means their reviews are not reflective of the full picture.
Let's start with this line from CNET's Richard Trenholm, who praises the work of the project's director Kate Herron, who brings an "audacious visual style as the series soars into boldly imaginative new directions. This is very much not the meat-and-potatoes superhero action of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And if anything it has potential to get weirder than WandaVision."
"The most fun Loki has is when Hiddleston and Wilson get to banter — a distinction from when Mobius playacts as Loki’s placid therapist, a dynamic neither the character nor actor can fully sell. But Wilson’s singular comedic delivery, which somehow combines both a dry deadpan and puppy dog enthusiasm still strikes an amusing balance against Hiddleston, especially when he gets to drop Loki’s existential angst for genuine curiosity about the strange new world around him."
Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter writes something similar: "It’s a safe bet that viewers are going to love the cleverly written buddy comedy dynamic between Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief and a newly introduced celestial middle-manager played by Owen Wilson."
His review later continues: "After two episodes, Loki is at a tipping point. Having set everything up to an exhausting degree, things could be lined up to get really entertaining — if not zany in a Rick and Morty way, perhaps fun in some of the timeline rupture-of-the-week ways The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow has enjoyed with a similar premise and much less seriousness."
Following the version of Loki who stole the Space Stone during the Time Heist in Avengers: Endgame, the series (developed for television by Rick and Morty vet Michael Waldron) follows the character as he fixes wayward timelines on behalf of the TVA. With such a metaphysical set-up at its disposal, the project is free to explore the weirdest corners of the Marvel canon.
"The set design for Loki is top-notch, evoking Terry Gilliam’s Brazil with its art deco depiction of the TVA’s base of operations, while nifty visual effects are employed to keep Loki 'chained up' and to dispatch agents to time period after time period," writes Matt Webb Mitovich of TVLine. "Once the premise for the series is in place, things get very fun, as Loki channels his mischievous brilliance into splendid detective work and he and Mobius engage in some timey-wimey theory testing, all building to a tantalizing, two-pronged reveal — one capping each hour — that opens up all kinds of possibilities for the rest of the six-episode season."
IndieWire's Ben Travers gives the first two episodes a C grading, voicing their annoyance over a high amount of exposition that mainly serves as a foundation for the multiversal madness to come. "Loki isn’t really about Loki, so much as it’s about introducing the TVA, the logistics of time travel, and how the MCU’s Phase 4 timeline will end up with a [Doctor Strange sequel] Multiverse of Madness, which Waldron just happens to be writing next," Travers writes.
Liz Shannon Miller of Collider was more generous, giving the episodes an A- and praising Hiddleston and Wilson's co-stars: "Gugu Mbatha-Raw [Ravonna Renslayer] and Wunmi Mosaku [Hunter B-15], as variously ranked cogs within the TVA machine, are both delightful on-screen presences, even if their characters remain a bit underdeveloped in the first two episodes."
Deadline's Dominic Patten describes Loki as a sort of "Awesome Mix" of the character's greatest moments, "shapeshifting, a bit of Jim Starlin, some David Fincher and a mixtape of other cinematic influences, plus a clearly MCU leaning forward performances by Mbatha-Raw."
Writing for Empire Magazine, Helen O'Hara bestows the episodes with four stars out of five, writing that "there are hints of Dr. Strangelove there, or The Good Place ... but most of all it feels like a weird, new authority for the freedom-loving heroes and villains of the MCU to rail against. There are mysteries to be solved there too, and for all that Loki is discombobulated by his first encounter with the TVA, he quickly identifies it as a new world to conquer. If there weren’t schemes within schemes, the show wouldn’t be living up to its name, after all."